Mayan Ruins, Rio Dulces and 9mm Berettas

Trip Start Jun 05, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Casa Guatemala

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Hello all and welcome back....on to the next chapter! First of all I must apologise for my lack of travelpod entries over the last few weeks but I can honestly say that this can be attributed to pure laziness on my part, so no real change there ;) So, its been an interesting few weeks, with not a great deal of miles travelled, however some interesting times have been had in my limited venturing. So I last wrote to you from Antigua, after which I took a 10 hour bus journey up to the most famous ruins in the Mayan world, Tikal. For the film buffs out there, this is also the area where they shot the Star Wars Movie- Return of the Jedi, the bit with the Ewoks on the Forest Moon of Endor. Tikal was one of the principal cities of the Maya civilization. At least 10,000 people lived within the mapped portion of the city, which encompasses six square miles. The maps reveals over 3000 separate structures including temples, palaces, shrines, ceremonial platforms, residences, ball courts, terraces, causeways, and plazas, most interconnected with aqueducts and cisterns for holding water.
There are troops of spider and howler monkeys, 285 species of birds, 209 of which are resident species: including hawks, hummingbirds, parrots, vultures, and golden turkeys. Outside of the ruins live jaguar, puma, ocelot, pecarry, small deer, and many other animals, many rare and endangered.
I stayed in the small island town of Flores and aranged a tour with guide to the park with Shaun (England) and Chad (USA). We left Flores at 3am and when we arrive at the park had to walk through the pitch black jungle with torches and ferocious humidity to Temple IV, the highest in Tikal (64m). After ascending to the summit of the temple up a rickety ladder, I sat and waited in an eery pitch black silence, looking to the East for the morning sunrise, with nothing stirring except for the odd bird buzzing fast after a morning feed...absolute silence! So the sun started to shine through, however there was too much humidity (and therefore cloud) this morning and the whole sunrise experience to the East didn't happen. If lucky with the weather, the sun can been seen popping its head up over the far horizon. So a little disappointment was felt, but when the sun stared to shine through the haze, I still got the great rush of adrenaline as the jungle came alive for the day, with the sound of Howler Monkeys (more like the growl of a lion than a howl!) and Toucans calling to each other.
On leaving Flores, I headed back South with Chad to Rio Dulce (literally meaning 'Sweet River') and immediately was taken back by the beauty of the place. I got a job volunteering at the Hotel Backpackers which is amalgamated with a childrens orphanage Casa Guatemala ( further down the river towards the Caribbean. This is self-sufficient, but provides the Hotel with meats, poultry, eggs etc (check out the picture of my piggie friend!!!). In return, the hotel gives the Casa 10% of the takings from every meal sold. Normally volunteers that work at the Casa initially work at the Hotel for 2 weeks before they go to the Casa. So every night for the last few weeks Ive been working the bar, with the clients and other barstaff being locals the Spanish is being used to its full effect and Ive even learnt a bit of the dance Merengue...a demon on the dance floor I am! ;)
Passing the time has been fun (including Jet-skiing), although most days are slow with sleeping, eating and drinking the main activities. Carlos (who works at the hotel), Neil (a retired chef and restaurant owner from England)-both top guys, and I went to a waterfall site up the river called Fica Paraiso...and absolute paradise it is...the strange thing is that the pool/lagoon is cold, but becauise of the volcanic nature of the area, the water cascading over the falls has a temperature hotter than a hot shower...its incredible! Oh, and Im now a friend of the local police too...Michael (a crazy Canadian volunteer) was at the local shop one day at 8am and met one of the local cops....having an early morning beer!!!! So we end up going down to the police station later in the day to talk to his new found friend and to hopefully get a behind the scenes look at the Guatemalan Police operation. We ended up getting a spin on their motorbikes..with a few glances from locals with me on the back of a bike with a Guatemalan Cop and had a look through their arsenal of weaponary, holding the 9mm Beretta! They ended up giving us gifts of the badges from their police uniforms..and yes you guessed it..we thanked them by buying them some beers! ;) A pretty crazy...'what just happened moment' ensued for at least a few hours afterwards!
So I'll be staying in Rio Dulce for one more week and will be leaving to meet Conor in Honduras at the start of November which will be awesome. We plan to visit the capital, Tegucigalpa to meet the homestay family he was with a few years back and then we're off the scuba diving island of Utila in the Caribbean to blow some bubbles.

Until next time, all the best and I hope you're all well,

Hasta entonces,

Martin ;)
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